Are low-carbohydrate diets more effective at achieving weight loss than low-fat diets? Major news outlets have trumpeted recently published scientific research claiming exactly that. During the year-long study, subjects in a low-carbohydrate diet group lost 7.7 lbs more than those on a low-fat diet (see story on Page 21).

While these results rightly are cause for concern by grain-based foods, a number of aspects of the study should have raised eyebrows among anyone looking at the results. The study design called for low-carbohydrate dieters to limit intake to 40 grams of carbohydrates per day, double the amount in the Atkins diet. Showing how tough it is to stick with such a diet, study participants consumed much more than targeted. By the end, low-carbohydrate participants were consuming 127 grams of carbs, equal to two slices of toast, a sandwich, an apple, and a bowl of cheese tortellini. While these subjects failed to follow their dieting guidelines, the low-fat dieters held beneath the 30% of calories target throughout the year.

What accounts for the difference in weight loss? Dieters in the low-carbohydrate cohort reported consuming 133 fewer calories per day than the low-fat dieters, a figure nutritionists suggest would have led to a weight-loss differential exceeding 10 lbs. Were it generally adopted, Atkins dieting would be catastrophic for the grain-based foods industry. From a grains perspective, the so-called low-carbohydrate diet in this most recent study would not.